IMPORTANT UPDATE, January 18, 2021: The deadline for the student category and the Beverly Kees Educator Award categories has been extended until Monday, January 25, 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. Please make your nominations here.


The Freedom of Information Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, is opening its 36th Annual James Madison Freedom of Information Awards season for 2020 work

Calling transparency advocates and open-records hounds: the awards season is open for the James Madison Awards, recognizing the people and organizations of Northern California who have made significant contributions to advancing freedom of information and expression in the spirit of James Madison, the creative force behind the First Amendment.  

The deadline for nominations is January 8, 2021. SPJ NorCal typically presents the awards during National Freedom of Information Week near Madison’s birthday, March 16, and we’ll announce more details as the date grows nearer.  

We welcome nominations of individuals, such as journalists, lay citizens, public officials, attorneys, educators, librarians and students, as well as news outlets and other organizations that, during 2020, have defended public access to government meetings, public records, court proceedings or otherwise promoted the public’s right to know, publish, and speak freely about issues of public concern. You can nominate others or yourself or your own organization. Our committee members regularly submit nominations as well. 

Awards are not necessarily given in every category; we also accept suggestions for new categories. Our typical categories include: 

Professional Journalist 

Student Journalist 

News Organization 

Nonprofit Organization 


Career Achievement 


Public Official 



Legal Counsel 

Electronic Access 


More details about award categories:  

Professional Journalist and Student Journalist awards recognize journalists who have fought for access to records, meetings or court proceedings, who have made exceptional use of public records in their reporting or who have promoted education on open government information freedom issues through stories, editorials or other advocacy. 

The Public Official award is given to a government official who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to keeping public records or meetings public, or otherwise has taken exemplary leadership on transparency or First Amendment issues. 

The Beverly Kees Educator Award recognizes extraordinary efforts by educators to cultivate a devotion to the values of freedom of information and/or expression. It is named for the journalist, SF State professor, transparency activist and former SPJ NorCal president who died in 2004. 

The Norwin S. Yoffie Career Achievement Award is named in honor of a founder and stalwart supporter of the chapter’s Freedom of Information Committee, who died in 2000 after many years of distinguished service to SPJ and dedication to sunshine. 

Please submit your nomination in this Google FormThere is no contest entry fee. 

See our 2020 awards winners here. Due to the pandemic, we honored them with an awards podcast.

Send questions to FOI Committee Chairs Lauren Smiley and Christine Peek at